Host-targeted RAD-Seq reveals genetic changes in the coral Oculina patagonica associated with range expansion along the Spanish Mediterranean coast

Leydet, K. P.; Grupstra, C. G. B.; Coma, R.; Ribes, M.; Hellberg, M. E.
Molecular Ecology
Many organisms are expanding their ranges in response to changing environmental conditions. Understanding the patterns of genetic diversity and adaptation along an expansion front is crucial to assessing a species' long-term success. While next-generation sequencing techniques can reveal these changes in fine detail, ascribing them to a particular species can be difficult for organisms that live in close association with symbionts. Using a novel modified restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-Seq) protocol to target coral DNA, we collected 595 coral-specific single nucleotide polymorphisms from 189 colonies of the invasive coral Oculina patagonica from the Spanish Mediterranean coast, including established core populations and two expansion fronts. Surprisingly, populations from the recent northern expansion are genetically distinct from the westward expansion and core populations and also harbour greater genetic diversity. We found that temperature may have driven adaptation along the northern expansion, as genome scans for selection found three candidate loci associated with temperature in the north but none in the west. We found no genomic signature of selection associated with artificial substrate, which has been proposed for explaining the rapid spread of O.patagonica. This suggests that this coral is simply an opportunistic colonizer of free space made available by coastal habitat modifications. Our results suggest that unique genetic variation, possibly due to limited dispersal across the Ibiza Channel, an influx of individuals from different depths and/or adaptation to cooler temperatures along the northern expansion front may have facilitated the northward range expansion of O.patagonica in the western Mediterranean.
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